Skip to main content

Ecosystems and their Services for Human Welfare

Millions of species populate Earth. The vast majority gain energy to support their metabolism either directly from the sun, in the case of plants, or, in the case of animals and microbes, from other organisms through feeding on plants, predation, parasitism, or decomposition. In the pursuit of life and through their capacity to reproduce, organisms use energy, water, and nutrients. Organisms interact with one another in many ways, including competitive, predatory, parasitic, and facilitative ways, such as pollination, seed dispersal, and the provision of habitat. These fundamental linkages among organisms and their physical and biological environment constitute an interacting and ever-changing system that is known as an ecosystem. Humans are a component of these ecosystems. Indeed, in many regions they are the dominant organism. Whether dominant or not, however, humans depend on ecosystem properties and on the network of interactions among organisms and within and among ecosystems for sustenance, just like all other species.
            Ecosystem services are the benefits people obtain from ecosystems. This definition is derived from two other commonly referenced and representative definitions:
Ecosystem services are the conditions and processes through which natural ecosystems, and the species that make them up, sustain and fulfill human life. They maintain biodiversity and the production of ecosystem goods, such as seafood, forage timber, biomass fuels, natural fiber, and many pharmaceuticals, industrial products, and their precursors (Daily 1997b:3).

Ecosystem goods (such as food) and services (such as waste assimilation) represent the benefits human populations derive, directly or indirectly, from ecosystem functions (Costanza et al. 1997:253).

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) definition follows Costanza and his colleagues in including both natural and human-modified ecosystems as sources of ecosystem services, and it follows Daily in using the term “services” to encompass both the tangible and the intangible benefits humans obtain from ecosystems, which are sometimes separated into “goods” and “services” respectively. Like the term ecosystem itself, the concept of ecosystem services is relatively recent—it was first used in the late 1960s (e.g., King 1966; Helliwell 1969). Research on ecosystem services has grown dramatically within the last decade (e.g., Costanza et al. 1997; Daily 1997a; Daily et al. 2000; de Groot et al. 2002).

Types of Ecosystem Services
Ecosystem services have been categorized in a number of different ways, including by:
·         functional groupings, such as regulation, carrier, habitat, production, and information services (Lobo 2001; de Groot et al. 2002);
·         organizational groupings, such as services that are associated with certain species, that regulate some exogenous input, or that are related to the organization of biotic entities (Norberg 1999); and
·         descriptive groupings, such as renewable resource goods, non-renewable resource goods, physical structure services, biotic services, biogeochemical services, information services, and social and cultural services (Moberg and Folke 1999).
Millennium Ecosystem Assessment approach classify ecosystem services along functional
lines using categories of provisioning, regulating, cultural, and supporting services. 

Provisioning Services
These are the products obtained from ecosystems, including:
·         Food and fiber. This includes the vast range of food products derived from plants, animals, and microbes, as well as materials such as wood, jute, hemp, silk, and many other products derived from ecosystems.
·         Fuel. Wood, dung, and other biological materials serve as sources of energy.
·         Genetic resources. This includes the genes and genetic information used for animal and plant breeding and biotechnology.
·         Biochemicals, natural medicines, and pharmaceuticals. Many medicines, biocides, food additives such as alginates, and biological materials are derived from ecosystems.
·         Ornamental resources. Animal products, such as skins and shells, and flowers are used as ornaments, although the value of these resources is often culturally determined. This is an example of linkages between the categories of ecosystem services.
·         Fresh water. Fresh water is another example of linkages between categories— in this case, between provisioning and regulating services.

Regulating Services
These are the benefits obtained from the regulation of ecosystem processes, including:
·         Air quality maintenance. Ecosystems both contribute chemicals to and extract chemicals from the atmosphere, influencing many aspects of air quality.
·         Climate regulation. Ecosystems influence climate both locally and globally. For example, at a local scale, changes in land cover can affect both temperature and precipitation. At the global scale, ecosystems play an important role in climate by either sequestering or emitting greenhouse gases.
·         Water regulation. The timing and magnitude of runoff, flooding, and aquifer recharge can be strongly influenced by changes in land cover, including, in particular, alterations that change the water storage potential of the system, such as the conversion of wetlands or the replacement of forests with croplands or croplands with urban areas.
·         Erosion control. Vegetative cover plays an important role in soil retention and the prevention of landslides.
·         Water purification and waste treatment. Ecosystems can be a source of impurities in fresh water but also can help to filter out and decompose organic wastes introduced into inland waters and coastal and marine ecosystems.
·         Regulation of human diseases. Changes in ecosystems can directly change the abundance of human pathogens, such as cholera, and can alter the abundance of disease vectors, such as mosquitoes.
·         Biological control. Ecosystem changes affect the prevalence of crop and livestock pests and diseases.
·         Pollination. Ecosystem changes affect the distribution, abundance, and effectiveness of pollinators.
·         Storm protection. The presence of coastal ecosystems such as mangroves and coral reefs can dramatically reduce the damage caused by hurricanes or large waves.

Ecosystem Services in a Snapshot

Cultural Services
These are the nonmaterial benefits people obtain from ecosystems through spiritual enrichment, cognitive development, reflection, recreation, and aesthetic experiences, including:
·         Cultural diversity. The diversity of ecosystems is one factor influencing the diversity of cultures.
·         Spiritual and religious values. Many religions attach spiritual and religious values to ecosystems or their components.
·         Knowledge systems (traditional and formal). Ecosystems influence the types of knowledge systems developed by different cultures.
·         Educational values. Ecosystems and their components and processes provide the basis for both formal and informal education in many societies.
·         Inspiration. Ecosystems provide a rich source of inspiration for art, folklore,national symbols, architecture, and advertising.
·         Aesthetic values. Many people find beauty or aesthetic value in variousaspects of ecosystems, as reflected in the support for parks, “scenic drives,” and the selection of housing locations.
·         Social relations. Ecosystems influence the types of social relations that are established in particular cultures. Fishing societies, for example, differ in many respects in their social relations from nomadic herding or agricultural societies.
·         Sense of place. Many people value the “sense of place” that is associated with recognized features of their environment, including aspects of the ecosystem.
·         Cultural heritage values. Many societies place high value on the maintenance of either historically important landscapes (“cultural landscapes”) or culturally significant species.
·         Recreation and ecotourism. People often choose where to spend their leisure time based in part on the characteristics of the natural or cultivated landscapes in a particular area.
Supporting Services
Supporting services are those that are necessary for the production of all other ecosystem services. They differ from provisioning, regulating, and cultural services in that their impacts on people are either indirect or occur over a very long time, whereas changes in the other categories have relatively direct and short-term impacts on people. For example, humans do not directly use soil formation services, although changes in this would indirectly affect people through the impact on the provisioning service of food production.

Substitutes are available for some ecosystem services, although often the cost of a technological substitution will be high and it may not replace all the services lost. For example, water treatment plants can now substitute for ecosystems in providing clean drinking water, although this may be expensive and will not overcome the impacts of water pollution on other components of the ecosystem and the services they provide. Another outcome of substitution is that often the individuals gaining the benefits are not those who originally benefited from the ecosystem services. Therefore, a full assessment of ecosystems and their services must consider:
·         information on the cost of a substitute,
·         the opportunity cost of maintaining the service,
·         cross-service costs and impacts, and

·         the distributional impacts of any substitution.
  BY - Dipankar Chatterjee; Asst. Professor, Faculty of IRTDM, RKMVERI, Ranchi


Popular posts from this blog

Rabindranath Tagore's idea of rural reconstruction

Rabindranath Tagore was not only a great poet rather he had got deep feeling for rural reconstruction in India. He always tried to make people happy not only economically rather by his songs Dave's and dharma also. After successfully starting of Shatiniketan at Bolepur in West Bengal he thought about another separate Centre for rural all round development. It was Sriniketan. It visualized for self-supporting steps of rural people. Starting with neighboring villages, the institute has conducted it's activities in many villages. These villages are graped under sub-centers for the convenience of administration the area has been divided into two zones 1. Intensive area, 2. Extensive area. The first comprises 26 villages which are under the direct guidance and supervision of Sriniketan. The activities of the institution may be broadly divided into nine spheres 1.Agriculture 2.Industry, 3.Village-welfare, 4.Co-oparation, 5.Health and sanitation, 6.Education, 7.Social organisation, 8.Economic …

Regulating Struggle for Bauxite Mine Safety: Native Asur communities in Jobhipat

Jobhipat Bauxite Mine is situated near village Narma, post office Jobhipat, police station Bishunpur, district Gumla, state Jharkhand with the local dialects like nagpuri, hindi, oriya, bihari and kurukh. This bauxite mine is spread across 1,29,445 ha with annual digging rate of 3,28,739 tons. If we go to it's historical legacy, then mining here started around may 1974 on 129.44 hectares then on lease basis for 20 years. Then Hindalco Industries Limited from the house of Aditya Birla Group came here with an renewal application and again started digging from 15th may, 1992. Later, the third renewal was approved on 15th may 2013, under Rule 12 of MCR 1960 and now the renewal is modified with rule no 17(3) of MCR 2016, which sanctions them a optimum lease period extended upto 17th may 2024, as per MMDR (Amendment) Act 2015. The land under mining was earlier comprising of mainly agricultural land, forest land and jungle jhari land which was quite more fertile then. The starting of min…

Child labour status in contemporary India

Introduction:           If the employment of children in any type of services despoils their childhood, trespass their right to go to the school and if that harm their social, physical and moral conditions, then it come under the term child labour. Child labour has clear geographical model. In develop countries child labour rate is 7% where in under developed countries it is around 30%. Actually there are some negative interrelation between economic development and child labour scenario of a country.                                                                                                According to UNICEF, worldwide there are almost 218 million children of the child group between 5 to 17 years are working as child labour(except domestic child labour). These include the use of children by military work like as informers, child prostitute, bar singer etc as well as agricultural worker.            In India there are almost 1.2 crore 1.85 lakh children who work as child labour. Amon…